Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Gee, Officer Krupke!

Got into a debate with Jerry Walls on Facebook:

The obvious question is why God does not determine all persons to choose the good, and thus avoid not only the evil of this world, but also the evil of eternal misery in hell. Indeed, if compatibilism is true, it seems God could determine all freely to choose the good and avoid hell.

One of the problems with that objection, as I pointed out to Jerry on more than one occasion, is the ambiguity of "all persons". The way he frames the alternatives suggests a comparison between two possible worlds containing the same set of people, in one of which only some are elect, while in the other all are elect.

But that's deceptive and incoherent, for a world in which everyone is elect will have a different history with a different set of people. Although everyone who exists in that world is heavenbound, there are people who were heavenbound in a world where everyone isn't elect who won't exist in a world where everyone is elect. So there are many hidden losers in Jerry's contrast. Many people who miss out on heaven because they don't exist in a world where everyone is elect. 

When Jerry says the Calvinist God could save everyone, I suspect the picture that conjures up in people's minds is something like this:

There's a possible world A where God damns Judas. Let's say that's the real world. Then there's a possible world B where God saves Judas. 

The problem with that comparison is that it's only true in a qualified sense. Yes, there's a possible world in which Judas goes to heaven. However, that can't be affirmed in isolation to other considerations. It depends. 

The existence of Judas is the end-result of a chain of events in the past. If the past is the same in that possible world, then God can save Judas. 

But what Jerry has in mind is a possible world in which everyone is saved. And there are, indeed, possible worlds in which everyone is saved, consistent with Calvinism.

Problem is, a world in which everyone is saved will have a different past. That past won't lead up to Judas. Although God can save Judas, God can't save Judas in a world in which God saves everyone else. For there is no Judas to save, given that alternate history. 

By the same token, Mary Magdalene is a end-product of the same past that produced Judas. A world in which everyone is saved won't include the Magdalene. She is saved in a world where Judas is damned.

As I have pointed out before, God is not limited by causal chains, given the assumption that he determines all things. He can extend causal chains as long and as creatively as necessary to save all persons in the actual world. Or he can directly act to reveal himself at the moment of death and directly determine all persons to "freely" accept his grace. So no reason why saving all would require a different past.

You're missing the point. If someone exists, God can save him. But what you're overlooking or evading is that a world in which everyone has saving grace will exclude people who would exist in a world where everyone doesn't have saving grace. 

Take children conceived through premarital or extramarital sex. In a world where everyone has saving grace, fewer people would be born as a result of sexual sin. Hence, a world where everyone has saving grace will have an alternate history with a different set of people.

It's unclear what you're attempting to say. Predestination utilizes causal chains. That's one of the distinctions between predestination and fatalism.

No, I am assuming this world, with its actual history and inhabitants. God could surely find a way to determine all people to accept his grace, either with post-mortem chains of events, or moment of death encounters in which he would reveal himself and determine a "free" response of faith.

God utilizes them as he will, or bypasses them as he will. He is not bound by causal chains.

i) That's an overstatement. Even an omnipotent God can't directly produce a second-order effect. Jacob can't be the grandson of Abraham unless Abraham existed.

ii) Postmortem salvation is at odds with Calvinism. So you can't interject that to show that universalism is consistent with Calvinism. If you're attempting to show that the Calvinist God could save everyone, you must confine yourself to Calvinist assumptions and draw inferences from that. You can't smuggle in a principle that's alien to Calvinism. 

iii) As for deathbed conversions, it's unclear what your scenario envisions. Did you have in mind a scenario in which everyone is a lifelong unbeliever until they undergo a deathbed conversion? If so, that's a different world history.

iv) Or did you have in mind a scenario in which all lifelong unbelievers have a deathbed conversion? If so, is their conversion experience evident to observers at their bedside? But if every lifelong unbeliever had a public deathbed conversion, that would change the future. For some people would be impacted by stories of deathbed conversions. 

v) Or did you have in mind a scenario in which all lifelong unbelievers have a secret deathbed conversion? If so, it's unclear what that hypothetical is supposed to prove. Since, in the nature of the case, that's an unverifiable postulate, why should we take it seriously? 

I mean, one could just as well postulate that for all we know, every Christian secretly renounces their faith at the moment of death and pledges allegiance to the devil.

Yes, I was thinking of conversions at the moment of death that are not observable by anyone else. That is one way God could save all persons, given the exact history of the world.

i) Jerry, that's an ad hoc rescue. You're resorting to makeshift fixes to patch up your original argument. But since there's no reason to suppose every lifelong unbeliever has a deathbed conversion, that's concocting a hypothetical, not because you have any evidence to believe it's true, but to salvage your position. That's a way of rendering just about any position unfalsifiable. It's not a philosophical virtue. 

It's like atheists who evade the Resurrection by saying Jesus may have faked the Resurrection, since, for all we know, he might have had a secret twin brother who died on the cross in his stead. Or maybe Jesus faked the Resurrection because he's really an E.T. whose advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. 

ii) In addition, it's unclear what that's supposed to accomplish. Presumably, your objective is to dissuade people from believing in Calvinism. However, you've postulated an unverifiable defeater or undercutter. Suppose God saves everyone in this life or the afterlife. Or he indetectably saves lifelong unbelievers on their deadbed. And let's say that disproves traditional Calvinism (i.e. reprobation, double predestination). 

Problem is, the disproof is unavailable to Calvinists in this life. They only discover that after they die. So, given your setup, that hypothetical can't figure in how we assess Calvinism in the here and now. 

It's like saying, what if a century from now the bones of Jesus are discovered. And somehow, these can be ID'ed as his bones. 

But since I won't be alive a century from now to witness that discovery, the hypothetical has no relevance to my Christian faith.

iii) We have accounts of some unbelievers' last words and gestures. Take Stalin's final moments, recounted by his daughter:

At what seemed the final moment, he suddenly opened his eyes and cast a glance over the room.

It was a terrible glance, insane or perhaps angry and full of the fear of death ... . The glance swept over everyone in a second. Then something incomprehensible and awesome happened that to this day I can't forget and don't understand. He suddenly lifted his left hand as though he were pointing to something above and bringing down a curse on us all. The gesture was incomprehensible and full of menace, and no one could say to whom or at what it might be directed. The next moment, after a final effort, the spirit wrenched itself free of the flesh.

Or the last words of Joan Crawford: "Dammit…Don't you dare ask God to help me!" 

Or the last words of W. C. Fields, "Goddamn the whole f***ing world and everyone in it! Except you, Carlotta" (his mistress).

iv) Jerry's attitude parallels the bleeding heart liberal who can never see the value of retributive justice for its own sake. Punishment is only good if it has deterrent value or remedial value. He seems to treat sin as misfortune. 

Unlike Jerry, I don't prioritize the divine attributes. I don't think some "parts" of God are better than other "parts". I don't think love is better than justice or justice is better than love. Both are essential goods. 

Maybe Jerry developed "optimal grace" from watching West Side Story:

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